Advocates celebrate and defend federal medical programs

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IECN Photo/Anthony Victoria: Health advocates congregated inside the Women's Club of San Bernardino on August 19 to celebrate the birthdays of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and call on congressional leaders to fight to maintain health benefits to seniors and low income residents.

Dozens gathered at the Women’s Club of San Bernardino Saturday to celebrate the birthdays of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and call on congressional leaders to fight to maintain health benefits to seniors and low income residents.

“These programs are vital to our communities,” said Katie Reed, President of the Women’s Club of San Bernardino. “Without them, many people would be without medical treatment that they truly need.”

Congress is deliberating on largely reducing funding to the three programs, according to health advocates. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican colleagues are supporting a $64 billion cut to Social Security Disability Insurance proposed by President Donald Trump in May. The program, funded by workers’ Social Security payroll tax contributions, helps qualifying disabled workers receive living support.

Ernie Powell, the grassroots director of Social Security Works, refuted claims by Republican lawmakers and private health providers that Social Security is going broke. Powell said the Social Security program can pay full benefits all the way up to 2034 and has a $2.9 trillion surplus.

“That is a literal lie,” Powell said of the GOP and private health provider’s claims. “And [the success of Social Security] is based on what you and I do.”

Trump’s proposed budget also intends to slash Medicaid spending by $1.7 trillion and shift a large majority of Medicare costs to seniors by creating a voucher program, according to the California Alliance of Retired Americans.

Shirley Harlan, single payer health advocate and San Bernardino League of Women Voters member, said her pension and Social Security benefits have helped her live a comfortable lifestyle. However, she said it’s becoming difficult to keep up with the rising cost of living.

“The program will always need tweaking,” said Harlan. “I hope our stories will give our congress members courage to keep it improved, protected, and for all of us, when we were young and as we grow old.”

Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino) said he understands how important the three programs are to San Bernardino County families and vowed to continue to stand up for seniors and low income residents.

“We know that this is a promise and a commitment that has been made,” Aguilar expressed. “We need to do everything we can to honor that commitment and make sure you have the resources moving forward.”

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